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Orchestrating Pathetique, need some help - Printable Version

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Orchestrating Pathetique, need some help - caters - 04-05-2019

Just in case you don't already know from the title, I am referring to the very well known Piano Sonata no. 8 in C minor by Beethoven. I plan to go from the very chordal nature of the piano to individual lines in a symphony orchestra. Out of all the 30 or so sonatas that Beethoven composed, this one sounds very orchestral in its nature, even as just a piano solo. One thing that should make things easier is that there are 3-4 bass lines and 3-4 melody lines in the grave sections. However, this actually causes some difficulty in deciding which instrument gets which line. I know that until the bass chords in the right hand show up, I don't want the brass to be playing. Here is what I see in each part of the Grave section as far as the orchestration:
[Image: mu34vkr80cq21.png]
As you can see, I separated it into 4 sections. The blue section which is bars 1-4 is where I don't want the brass to be playing. The red section which is bars 5-7 is where I want there to be call and response between the low brass and the low woodwinds so that the low woodwinds can be freed up for the bass chords in the right hand part. The green section which is bars 7-9 is where I want a buildup to apotheosis in full orchestra. The purple section which is bar 10 is where I want the texture to diminish from full orchestra. It is also where I can see a woodwind cascade happening from the flute down to the oboe, clarinet, and possibly bassoon.

I was wondering if you could help me orchestrate this Grave section. Once I get to the Allegro, it should be easier.


RE: Orchestrating Pathetique, need some help - Samulis - 04-08-2019

When orchestrating something from a piano part, especially the left hand, strongly consider the texture of each instrument you choose. In orchestration, there is a concept called 'low interval limits', which describes general rules of thumb for avoiding close intervals in bass voices. For the piano, it is much easier to have tight low intervals below the bass clef staff and still have it intelligible, but with orchestra, sometimes it just gets too muddy, especially since most low non-brass instruments (e.g. bassoons, contrabassoon, bass clarinet) have a very rich timbre which makes them great with things like perfect fifths and octaves, but a bit difficult in tight, low thirds.

Generally, work your way up from the lowest voice. The root of the chord should get the strongest instrument or section in most cases, with fifths then thirds being the order of importance. For that first chord, I would first off assign one bassoon (or the contrabassoon) to the root, doubled either by half or all of the contrabasses. The next bassoon should take the third (alone), and the rest of the contrabasses if divisi, perhaps take the fifth along with the bass clarinet. The octave root can be played by the celli, with the top three voices (right hand) being taken care of by violas or violins and clarinets + cor anglais, and the melodic figure following each chord would be a good place to consider a woodwind section sound.

Obviously the act of orchestration is in part of one of creative exploration, logical analysis, and last but not least plentiful experimentation. My advice: just try assigning voices around the orchestra and see what sticks. Perhaps examine Beethoven's symphonic works for clues on how he voices passages across the orchestra, where he holds back instruments for later use and where he leans on others for all the 'dirty work'. For example, although strings often come to mind first as a classical era composer's family of choice, in many cases woodwinds were used to great effect. Brass were almost always saved... even through entire movements, for key moments representing salvation or great angst. Of course, horns and trumpets of Beethoven's time were a far cry from their modern counterparts and thus were mechanically limited to certain functions, and the trombones' lengthy sacred use in church music made them especially symbolic, but to echo Beethoven's techniques in orchestrating his work I believe is in line with trying to do justice to what he wrote in the first place.

Just some thoughts. Smile